This week's story is about the Little Utica School, 15th in a series regarding the rural schools of the town of Lysander. Just east of East Mud Lake Road on the north side of Lamson Road, the school sits nestled in the shadow of the Little Utica United Methodist Church next door. The church building dates to 1834, and no one knows for sure the exact age of the schoolhouse. But, the hamlet itself is much older than either one.
According to Clayton's "History of Onondaga County," folks first settled this place circa 1810, including Reuben Coffin, John Butler, Benjamin Rathbun, Sanford Dunham, and John Lamson. "A post-office was established in 1832, then called Paynesville; Noah Payne, who then kept a store, was postmaster, under the name of Paynesville." Later, the post-office was removed to Jacksonville, which changed its name to Polkville. By 1864 the post office was back in Paynesville, renamed Little Utica in honor of the settlers' former hometown. Pearl Palmer, Lysander Town Historian, wrote in the 1940's that, "the first frame house in Little Utica was built by a Dickinson, and stood where the Carpenter place is now."
Little Utica has been described by a local historian as "once the hub of a thriving community." One political rally in 1860 attracted over 1,000 people to the place. In that same year, so many people attended a "Republican Jollification" that the floor in hamlet's Harrington Hotel collapsed, carrying the participants into the cellar. An 1874 map of the place shows the post office and store operated by W. Allen on the southwest corner of the crossroads and the hotel on the northeast corner, by then owned and operated by the Gifford Brothers. Clayton claimed in 1878 that "Little Utica has one store, two blacksmith shops, a hotel, a cigar factory, saw-mill, cheese factory, and some very good dwelling houses." By the turn of the century, the hamlet held more than 30 households.